By Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News June 5, 2012
LONDON — Boisterous celebrations marking the Queen's Diamond Jubilee came to an end Tuesday as Her Majesty appeared on a balcony at Buckingham Palace and waved her thanks to a cheering sea of an estimated 1.5 million people.
The ceremonial avenue known as The Mall leading up to the palace was packed with revellers — many waving the Union Jack and hoisting umbrellas to guard against the rain.
The Queen was joined by other members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, her grandsons, princes William and Harry, and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge — but not her husband, Prince Philip, who is in hospital.
It was one of the few grand state occasions in her life when he has not been present, taking some of the gloss off what has widely been seen as a triumphant diamond jubilee.
Overhead, the skies thundered with the flypast of 18 Royal Air Force planes in honour of the Queen. As the Queen's Guard shot their rifles into the air, the crowd joined together to sing God Save the Queen.
Soon thereafter, a pre-recorded address to the nation by the Queen was to be broadcast throughout Britain on TV and radio.
The finale came shortly after Queen Elizabeth's procession returned to the palace in a horse-drawn state landau Tuesday afternoon, as thousands of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse.
Earlier in the day, she participated in a religious service of thanksgiving attended by guests and foreign leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The service was held at St. Paul's Cathedral, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave a sermon honouring Queen Elizabeth for her 60 years on the throne.
"What we are marking today — the anniversary of one historic and very public act of dedication," he said.
"A dedication that has endured faithfully, calmly and generously through most of the adult lives of most of us here. We are marking six decades of living proof that public service is possible and that it is a place where happiness can be found."
Also in his homily, Williams made note of how the Bible stressed the importance of selflessness and sacrifice — qualities that the Queen had shown over the years.
"In all her public engagements, our Queen has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others," he said.
The Queen, wearing a mint green dress, sat in the front row with other members of the Royal Family, with her husband, Prince Philip, notably absent. He was taken to hospital Monday as a "precaution" due to a bladder infection.
The couple's youngest son Prince Edward, who visited Philip in hospital, told reporters that his father was "getting better."
The palace said the outspoken prince will remain in hospital for several days and was "disappointed" to miss the celebrations, which he watched on television.
U.S. President Barack Obama also paid tribute to the Queen, describing her as "a steadfast ally, loyal friend and tireless leader."
"While many presidents have come and gone, your majesty's reign has endured," he said in a video message. "That makes your majesty both a living witness to the power of our alliance and a chief source of its resilience."
The monarch insisted on attending Monday's spectacular concert in front of the palace — which featured stars including Paul McCartney, Elton John and Stevie Wonder — despite Philip's ill health.
After the final set, Prince Charles urged the crowd to show their support, and they responded by raising a huge roar and chanting "Philip, Philip."
On Tuesday morning, the crowds began building up in London to watch the Queen as she made the trip in her Bentley vehicle from the palace to the cathedral. From her car seat, she waved to the crowds and smiled.
As she arrived at the cathedral, crowds chanted "God Save the Queen."
Inside, trumpets rang out and a choir sang as she walked into the cathedral — to be met by her son, Prince Charles, and grandsons William and Harry.
A wide array of Britain's leading politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, had already been seated — as had other members of the royal household.
Harper and his wife, Laureen, who arrived on the weekend for the celebrations were also present.
Also in the cathedral for the service were Canada's governor general, David Johnston and his wife, Sharon.
The service was held on the fourth day of celebrations throughout Britain. The highlights have included a rain-soaked flotilla of 1,000 boats down the River Thames on Sunday and a star-studded concert for the Queen on Monday evening at Buckingham Palace attended by thousands of people.
Concert for the Queen: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration (2012) (TV)
Host: Katie Couric